FINALLY! Finally Patriots football is back, after more “will they, won’t they” than Jim and Pam from “The Office”. This offseason was nothing short of a tragedy of errors. Or more accurately, a tragedy of tragedies. It started with a first-round playoff loss. Then Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T., the god of football and pliability, the most beautiful man ever, left for Tampa Bay. Needless to say, the loss of Brady hurt more than the playoff loss. But finally, the offseason ended with a 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins.
And what better way to celebrate the end of the Offseason that Shall not be Named than by awarding the Game Ball to the Patriot who had the best performance. There were several players deserving of the Game Ball this week. David Andrews, who missed last season with a blood clot in his lungs. Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Adrian Phillips, who each had an interception. Chase Winovich, the second-year defenseman who appears to have taken a major leap forward in talent and knowledge. But there was one player that really stood out. That turned his doubters into believers and his fans into followers. That player is Super Cam Newton.
Newton was unemployed for 86 days prior to being signed by the Patriots in July. 86 days of not knowing if he would play football this season. Of not having a team to work out with, or practice with. Not knowing where he would be living. When Bill Belichick decided to add Newton to the team, the reaction was mixed, to put it mildly. After several seasons of battling through injuries, Newton did not appear to be the same player who won the NFL MVP award in 2015. On top of that, he would have to replace Tom Brady after the 20 most successful seasons in sports history.
Going into the season opener against Miami, all eyes were on Newton. Patriots detractors were hoping for his downfall, the fans hoping for little more than adequacy. But Newton went way beyond adequacy. For 60 minutes, Super Cam Newton looked like he was back in 2015 shape. For someone who had everything to prove, he proved it all. His passing was crisp and accurate, going 15/19 for 155 yards. His reads and anticipation showed a connection with his receivers that’s rare for a player on a new team. He demonstrated this early in the game with a great read and even better pass to the tight end, Ryan Izzo.
On first and 10 from their own 31, Izzo ran a post route while Newton play-actioned to Rex Burkhead. Izzo was covered while Newton made his first reads, but broke off the route early to shake the defender. Newton saw this and threw a dart right to Izzo, who caught the pass and ran for another 10 yards for a total gain of 25 yards.
As good as Newton looked as a passer, he was even more impressive as a runner. He gained 75 yards on 15 carries, two of which went right into the endzone for touchdowns. I never thought I would see the Patriots utilize anything close to a run option offense, but Newton executed it perfectly. On the first drive of the game, Newton faked a handoff to Rex Burkhead, who ran to the right. Former Patriot Kyle Van Noy bit on the fake but recovered enough to chase Newton, who dragged Van Noy for a gain of 11 yards and a first down. This type of dominant running continued throughout the game. His correct reads afforded the running backs more room to run and kept defenders off balance and scrambling to keep up.
Cam Newton wins this week’s Game Ball, not just for his on-field performance but also his hard work in practice and the intelligence he displayed. Belichick has frequently complimented Newton’s work ethic and drive. He has completely bought in to the Patriots program and seems genuinely happy to be in New England. Fans should be equally excited to watch Newton in a Patriots uniform. Personally, there’s no one I would rather see lead the team in the New(ton) era than Super Cam himself.
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–Travis Baltes is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @TravisBaltes. Game Ball is a weekly column that highlights the best performance by a Patriots player from each game.